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President Niinistö: US immigration ban "contrary to Western values"

Finnish President Sauli Niinistö has spoken out against an executive order by US President Donald Trump that temporarily bans entry into the country by seven Muslim-majority countries and indefinitely suspends entry by refugees from Syria. Niinistö has been one of few Finnish politicians to speak out on the controversial measure.

Sauli Niinistö
Sauli Niinistö Image: Tiina Jutila / Yle

President Sauli Niinistö said Monday that he does not accept the decision by US President Donald Trump to block citizens from seven predominantly Muslim countries from entering the US and to indefinitely block Syrian refugees from the country.

"Stigmatising people based on birth or nationality is wrong. It goes against Western values and international agreements," Niinistö told STT news agency.

Instead of immigration restrictions, Niinistö called for cooperation with those countries where terrorists are suspected of originating. He suggested information gathering and exchange as forms of collaboration.

Last Friday newly-minted US President Donald Trump signed an executive order that saw masses of people from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Yemen, Syria, Somalia and Sudan with valid travel documents stranded at airports over the weekend as the order went into effect.

The vaguely-worded order meant that holders of US residence permits, so-called green cards, were also prevented from returning to their homes. However they were later allowed to enter the country.

The ban sparked outrage in the US and prompted demonstrations at airports and other locations across the country as well as other parts of the world. It also drew criticism from national and world leaders.

Many leading Finnish politicians silent

In Finland, many leading politicians offered little comment on the decision.

On Sunday National Coalition Party Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Kai Mykkänen tweeted that, "Finland and the EU will not discriminate against refugees based on their religion. In any circumstances."

Finns Party chair and Foreign Minister Timo Soini also took to Twitter on Sunday to denounce the de facto Muslim ban, saying, "To deny entry of people of certain countries to USA is unfair. Every person deserves to be treated individually."

However Soini refused further comment on Monday.

Prime Minister Juha Sipilä reportedly did not have time to respond to Yle questions on the issue.

Finance Minister Petteri Orpo is the only government minister to have offered any official statement on the matter. On Monday he told Yle that he had been following recent developments in the US with some concern.

"It seems that Trump has a desire to show his own voters that he will keep his election promises," Orpo said, adding that the immigration ban was very unfair.

"I believe that these decisions do not comply with international agreements. We must now see how these decisions will be implemented," he added.

Orpo said that he believes that the US government will clarify its policy. The minister speculated that Trump is now testing limits and trying the system.

"However the US is a country governed by the rule of law, where regulations and inter-agency functions are clear," Orpo added.

He pointed out that the US has a right to determine its own immigration policies.

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